“Facing the Climate” Exhibition in Washington, DC

Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend the “Grand Opening of 2014 Theme Program: Going Glocal” at the Swedish Embassy in Washington, DC (also known as the House of Sweden). The event was particularly important for me as Sweden also unveiled Facing the Climate – a cartoon exhibit that includes the works of Swedish and international artists on climate issues. Also, Facing the Climate is one of the projects I study in my dissertation. It was a “geeky” and a “happy” moment when I finally saw the project that I have been interviewing, reading, and writing about for the past two year in person.

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Turkey: Home of Absurd Promotion Posters

Turkey unveiled its new promotion posters for 2014, with the theme “Home of [insert (sometimes proper) noun here]”. When I first saw some of the posters, I really was not sure whether this was an official campaign or a spoof. As various news outlets reported the event as such, I assume it is an official campaign – though the content of the posters make it very difficult to believe that.

Nope, that is not Virgin Mary in the picture.

Nope, that is not Virgin Mary in the picture. Just a random lady.

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How not to Conduct Digital Diplomacy: @IDFSpokesperson and IDF Blog

As a ‘scholar-in-training’, I try to focus my writing (and even thinking) on my dissertation topic and do my best to stay away from ‘distractions’ mainly due to two reasons. Firstly, I want to get my PhD sooner rather than later. Secondly, I want to brand myself through my dissertation research and related writings. Middle Eastern politics, for instance, is a subject I would not touch with a ten foot pole. Yet, after witnessing Pillar of Defense (or #pillarofdefense for the purposes of this blog post), I decided to write on how not to conduct digital diplomacy and underline IDF’s mistakes in message formation and medium selection.

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Bridge No More? Turkish Public Diplomacy and Branding under the AKP Government

With its geographic location between Asia and Europe, and with its identity as a predominantly Muslim yet secular-democratic country, Turkey has established its role as a bridge between the East and the West for years. Changes in the domestic political landscape in the last decade have put Turkey in an even more prominent position in the international arena. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the country is an aspiring power in the greater Middle East region. With the AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, Justice and Development Party) government, Turkey has seen unprecedented institutional changes done in the name of democracy, witnessed the decreasing influence of the military over civilian politics, and enjoyed impressive economic growth. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s introduction of a well-devised “zero-problem with neighbors” policy, has aimed to strengthen relations with neighboring countries and to increase Turkish presence in parts of the world that has been long ignored by previous administrations.

This article is cross-posted from e-IR Journal. The original article can be accessed here.



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Unintentional (public) diplomacy: Conflict of Pinterest 2012

There is a new campaign (well now a couple of months old), Conflict of Pinterest that makes use of social media, citizen involvement, and some kind of measurement metrics that aims to find the answer for the million dollar question: “What is the most beautiful country in this world?” The campaign brings all the buzzwords of public diplomacy studies – therefore requires a closer look!

Conflict of Pinterest 2012

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Theory and Practice in Public Diplomacy: Diplomatic dish-washing

For the last couple of months, I have been working on the latest project of Turkayfe.org – our online coffeehouse project. The website, which started out as an online “social diplomacy” / place branding project is going offline, and meeting people on the street with “Mobile Turkish Coffee House” project.

Mobile Turkish Coffee House in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Mobile Turkish Coffee House in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC

Turkayfe.orgstarted out as an idea in May 2009, and the website went live in May 2010. From our very early days, we did our best to learn from our mistakes, and to improve our project. As a doctoral candidate studying public diplomacy, and a dilettante practitioner; I tried to use my practical experience in my academic studies and vice-versa.

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The Latvia Pavilion – Technology of Happiness

For the last couple of weeks, I was trying to find some time to take a closer look at the Latvia Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 . Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to write something about the project before the Expo was over. But still, I would like to acknowledge this novel idea. (Plus, apparently the Pavilion will be up for an auction this Tuesday. If you have missed the fun in Shanghai, it might be time to call your local amusement park).

I called the Latvia Pavilion a novel idea, because the project team managed to come up with a non-traditional but still straight-forward concept to exhibit within a traditional event. It is difficult to make use of ‘events marketing’ as a participant, yet it is not impossible. Here is Latvia’s Expo 2010 concept:

Latvia’s strength lies in its people, who through their industriousness and creativity, have become among the world’s best specialists in their respective fields. They have proven that things can be done differently, and with excellent results…hrough the creative use of innovative technologies and inventions, they hope to improve the quality of life in their communities, in their country, and in the world at large. Such is the TECHNOLOGY OF HAPPINESS on display in the Latvian pavilion. Taken from http://www.latvijaexpo2010.lv/en/latvijas-paviljons/koncepcija/

Latvia, a country that has been labeled as Communist, Soviet, Eastern Bloc, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, new European, new EU member in less than twenty-five ears, makes use of Expo to demonstrate a less-known (and probably more-fun) part of itself and its people. The design shows the country’s technological capabilities. The fact that it is a ‘toy’ (Lack of a better word, I would call this miracle a toy in quotation mark) shows the place of ‘fun’ in Latvian daily life.

When it comes to nation branding, several countries actually act with an image restoration understanding. There is always a seriousness, a desire to apologize, an eagerness to correct misinformation. But such messages only reach the interested audience. What if a visitor at Expo 2010 has no interest in Latvia, how can you communicate with him or her? Who will not stop to see a few people flying in a pavilion? This causal approach, I claim, helped Latvia to reach several people who would otherwise not be interested in learning about the country.

Moreover, we aspire to become overachievers in nation branding campaigns. If you look at the major definitions in the literature, they talk about policy changes, involvement of several agencies, high-level communication strategies etc. Even though, it is true that a large-scale nation branding program is likely to include several different aspects but a single project/campaign should be simple and straightforward. The messages should not bore the audiences. (I am 99% sure that Pavilion did not bore anyone).

Finally, the Pavilion project was supported by online communication technologies. Apart from the website and blog, the project was active on Twitter. The Vimeo Channel is still active and includes around fifty videos.

Long story short, The Latvia Pavilion was a successful and original nation branding project idea. Changing the perception of a nation necessitates more than a project (or more than a collection of project). Countries are obliged to have long-term strategies. However, these ideas are effective in short term. Expo 2010 was a media opportunity for all the participants, and Latvia cleverly used this opportunity.

PS: English subtitles would have been great in this video.